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Evolution and Human Consciousness

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A lecture given at UCSD
by Fred Brown

If you ask the man in the street the meaning of the word evolution you will probably
get a response something like: "Yes, I know what that is, it means man came from the monkeys."

Which, of course is not what it means. The word evolution means a gradual and progressive change, whether it be applied to galaxies, stars, geology, human culture, or biology.

It has been said that it is impossible to understand God without understanding evolution because evolution is a very fundamental part of creation. In any event the world we now have is the result of billions of years of evolution. And with regard to biology, contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as the theory of evolution. Biological evolution is not a theory but an established scientific fact, and there is no controversy about this amongst biologists.

There are different theories (plural, not singular) to explain evolution, but evolution itself is a scientific fact. And the different theories do not conflict with each other but are mutually complimentary and supportive.

I notice that recently even the Catholic church, after opposing Darwinism for a century, has come to acknowledge the fact of evolution, and I would think this would create enormous doctrinal problems for them.

Actually, biological evolution is an old idea, going back to ancient Greece. The Greeks had a lot of ideas, so it is not surprising that some of them turned out to be right.

But no one explained how one life form could evolve into another until 1809 when a Frenchman named Jean Lamarck provided a mechanism by which organic evolution could take place.
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His hypothesis very neatly explained many things, but there was one trouble: it happened to be wrong. Lamarck's hypothesis depended on the inheritance of acquired characteristics which we now know does not happen.

The big name in evolution, of course, is Charles Darwin who was born on the same day in 1809 as Abraham Lincoln. (I suppose astrologers could make something of that fact; and perhaps there is a parallel: Lincoln freed the slaves and Darwin freed the world of its ignorance.)

Darwin's momentous book was titled On the Origin of Species and was published in 1859.

This was one of the greatest scientific breakthroughs in history, and in biology I would say the greatest breakthrough, even including the recent breaking of the genetic code.

The elements of Darwinism are as follows:
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(1) Heredity

(2) Variation

(3) Excess Replication

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Fred Brown has been a population activist since 1963. He has lectured at Universities and High Schools and has supported population NGO's. He has a strong background in science and degrees from Cal Poly and the University of Illinois.

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